Engineering Lead

Mike Harrington

Principal Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Funding

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Engineers

Geoff Cram

Principal Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Dana Manalang

Senior Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Chuck McGuire

Principal Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

James Tilley

Senior Electrical Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Collaborators

William Wilcock

Professor, Oceanography

David Schmidt

Associate Professor, Earth & Space Sciences

John Vidale

Professor, Earth & Space Sciences

Earthquake Early Warning System

Cascadia Subduction Zone

How It Works

In collaboration with the other academic partners, APL-UW engineers are working to design a reliable, offshore Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system in the Pacific Northwest region. This network of seafloor seismometers and pressure sensors will cover the 700-mile fault of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Cascadia subduction zone off the Pacific Northwest coast

An EEW system quickly detects and measures seismic activity fast enough to notify the public of strong shakes headed their way. Giving people seconds, to even minutes, of advanced warning could provide preparation time and protective actions that could potentially save lives and public property.

Alert messages would be sent to the public via cellphones, while transportation systems and industrial worksites would be wired to automatically shut down into safety modes. Medical surgeons and dentists would have forewarnings to stop operating immediately, and emergency responders, like police officers and firefighters, would have an instant heads-up to prioritize their response decisions for the aftermath.

An earthquake has two types of waves: P-waves and S-waves. The P-wave, which travels fastest, trips the sensors placed on the ground and gives the Earthquake Alert Center an advanced warning of the incoming quake. This allows the public to take precautionary safety actions before the slower, more destructive S-waves hit.

In February 2016 the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded the University of Washington a $1 million grant to study the design and cost-benefits of a cabled off-shore network of instruments for an EEW system that also could help reveal more about the fault’s structure, including where the biggest ruptures are likely to occur, as well as detect small quakes and patches that slip. APL-UW was chosen based on the knowledge and expertise acquired in the construction and operation of the Cabled Array.

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